Review of Baccarat for the Clueless
July 14, 2022
At several times over the last 40 years the researchers who have demonstrated that is a game of skill that can be beaten by a clever player have turned their attention, albeit briefly, toward the game of Baccarat. This is only natural, in some sense the game is very similar: Obtain a hand of greater value than that of your opponent. Yet for all of these attempts, the conclusions were strikingly disappointing. Their research showed that a preliminary investigation reveals that it is very difficult to achieve conditions under which Baccarat can be exploited by the skillful player, period. But these are just preliminary findings, and many of them were performed decades ago, before the today’s computer simulations, shuffle tracking, and card sequencing techniques. Is Baccarat still unbeatable?
Baccarat for the Clueless, far from its name, is certainly the most thorough investigation of the game ever undertaken. I have to admit a little surprise at the familiarity of the author, John May, with the state-of-the art research in Blackjack. Most books that talk about Baccarat involve some insipid variations on betting progressions and vapid talk of “hot” and “cold” shoes. Instead, in Baccarat for the Clueless I find a refreshingly honest and well researched approach to this, the most formal of casino games.
The book starts with a description of how the game is played and the history of the game, focusing on how it came to be played in American casinos. This was all news to me, and given my lack of any sort of respect for the majority of books that cover Baccarat, this is almost certainly the only source of this information that I’d be willing to cite, at least with a straight face. Further, May describes all the major betting progressions I’ve heard of (and some that I hadn’t heard of), and explains why they can’t make money in the long run, but why they still may be worth playing depending on how one obtains enjoyment at the gaming tables.
After the preliminaries, we dive right in to Blackjack techniques as they apply to Baccarat, card counting, shuffle tracking, playing warps, and cheating. The author is honest and, IMHO, ethical in his treatment of these topics, although in a couple of places he drifts a little close to the propriety line for my tastes, yet I have to admit, never crosses it. On the other hand, I just don’t understand how anyone expects warps, as an example, to occur in Slot Gacor Baccarat and be useful as they can be in Blackjack.
Next, the book discusses related games, Chemin de Fer, Baccarat en Banque, and a popular game in California cardrooms, Super Pan Nine. All of these games are interesting variations on the Baccarat theme, although Super Pan Nine deserves more coverage than it got, although it is complex enough to warrant its own book. At the very least the reader learns enough about these games to understand the casino scenes in James Bond movies. The book finishes up with some miscellany which is nonetheless interesting.
I’ll risk the reader’s wrath and spoil the punch line a bit. It is clear to me that May loves the game of Baccarat, and desperately wants to find a way to beat it, and has looked exhaustively for a way to do this. At the same time, his intellectual honesty has forced him to conclude that despite his longings, it’s damnably difficult to do so, even under the most favorable conditions. Despite his best efforts, I believe he, and the reader, is forced to the conclusion that the situations under which Baccarat is beatable are so few and far between based on the current techniques that it’s just not realistic to expect to make any money at it, although perhaps we can mitigate our losses a bit. As a researcher, I find this conclusion refreshing, although I can’t help but be a tiny bit disappointed.
Since there aren’t any really exciting places to make money at this game, why should one read this book? Well, if this is the question one asks, then the answer is that it’s probably not worthwhile to read through it, even though it is well written, its length is quite modest, and the price quite reasonable. However, if one has any interest at all in the game of Baccarat, especially if one has been put off by the hucksters and snake oil salesmen that usually publish on the topic, this is far and away the way to go. I’ve never been a Baccarat player, but admit to some curiosity, and I found the book to be well worth my time.
There are no great revelations in this book, but it is well written and refreshingly honest. Even though there are no easy, and few difficult, ways to beat this game, everyone interested in Baccarat would be very well advised to read this book at their earliest opportunity. For those with no interest in this game, there is nothing else here to hold one’s interest. For what the book is, I highly recommend it.